Editor’s note: This is part two of a five-part series on Michigan winter activities. Read the introduction to the series here.
Winter in Detroit is a magical time. An abundance of festive snow, holiday-themed attractions and seasonal adventures make this city one of the best to visit in Michigan during the colder months. While COVID-19 is changing the way we venture out, Detroit has adapted with safe, socially distanced activities.
It’s easy to spend a long winter weekend in the Motor City, which has a variety of dining choices, shopping areas, entertainment options and classic, cozy hotels to stay at — many of which have been renovated from historic skyscrapers. And the best part is, most of the celebrated outdoor experiences that already existed in Detroit easily could be transformed into COVID-safe spaces.
The city is well-known for its winter ice skating rink, which sits in the heart of downtown Detroit’s picturesque Campus Martius Park and draws visitors from across the state and beyond. A Christmas tree upwards of 60 feet tall and decked out in lights serves as a landmark for the rink, which comes with heated tents next door that dish up everything from piping hot chocolate and snacks to beers and wines. An annual lit-up menorah also goes up in December, making Campus Martius the place to be to experience holiday spirit.
For those looking for a little more adventure, Detroit’s Belle Isle — a nature retreat right within the city itself — is perfect for walking, hiking and biking. You also can snowshoe around the island, which is nestled between Detroit and Windsor on the Detroit River’s international waters, a location that offers one of the most Instagram-worthy sunset-watching spots in Michigan. Detroit Riverwalk is another great option for unbeatable views of Canada, which looks especially beautiful at night.
Many restaurants throughout the city are changing their business structures to allow for outdoor, socially distanced dining, even in the winter. In Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, East Eats features a collection of heated domes and a vegan-friendly menu that offers everything from street corn and miso soup to fried donuts. All items up for grabs are named after influential people from Detroit’s past, making this a place to eat that’s purely Motor City. Meals are purchased when reservations are made so no money or credit card exchanges are necessary, a practice that’s meant to enhance social distancing.
Lumen Detroit, meanwhile, a restaurant in Beacon Park that serves upscale, American cuisine and drinks, will host heated igloos in the winter months. Reservations can be made for private igloos that can seat anywhere from six to 12 guests, ideal for social distancing with small groups of friends or family. The surrounding Beacon Park area is always full of food trucks as well for those looking for a quick bite while adventuring.
Beacon Park is just a short drive or QLINE-ride away from Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, which has an eclectic array of shops with custom products that can’t be found anywhere else. Third Man Records Cass Corridor is designed for music lovers looking to scoop up rare vinyl releases, while City Bird is all-things-Michigan and sells locally made jewelry, clothing, art and beyond. Shinola is around the corner as well, where its famous watches and other leather goods can be picked up. Those seeking out more upscale shopping can venture over to downtown’s Woodward Avenue, which features classics such as H&M, Warby Parker, Bonobos and John Varvatos.
For a real Detroit experience, there’s nothing like staying at one of its new boutique hotels to get a feel for the city’s history and also where its future is headed. Detroit Foundation Hotel was revamped from Detroit’s former Fire Department Headquarters, the timeless architecture still visible in its design. Aloft Detroit at The David Whitney Building is another great option.